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[note from Secessus – this page is updated as I find verifiable information. Problems listed (or not listed) below do not mean one is better than the other. I may have researched some more than others so far. Truly, I don't care what van you buy and live in. It's your home, not mine. ]

All vans have issues

Everybody thinks their pet van is the best, and that all others will drain your wallet and/or leave you to die a gruesome death on the side of the road. As has been observed in a different context:

That is the way of us chili men. Each of us knows that his chili is light years beyond other chili in quality and singularity; each of us knows that all other chili is such vile slop that a coyote would turn his back on it.1)

In actuality, all vans have issues. The challenge is to find a van that meets your needs, not to find some mythically perfect unicorn that was designed directly by god, never breaks, never needs maintenance and runs forever on one tank of gas and one crankcase of oil. It's like dating: find a van whose weirdnesses don't bother you, and that you can personally live with.

on the likelihood of problems

Only a small percentage of failures occur on any particular vehicles; it's not like “this is guaranteed to happen to you!” It's more a list of things to look for, to be aware of. Forums and complaint sites list tons of problems because people with problems are more likely to post. It is rare to see a post saying “drove my van for a year and nothing happened!”. Beware of people who claim “the [fill in the blank] forum is full of unhappy owners!!!” without mentioning unhappy owners of their vans on their forums. Forum links are included below for further research.

Timely maintenance is likely to prevent or lessen the impact of the issues listed below. If your van has recalls or TSBs, try to have it fixed under warranty while it's still free.

You may also want to think about Total Cost of Ownership or average annual repair costs.

Chevy Astro

The Astro/Safari have a cult following due to their mid-size and available AWD.

Learn about this van on the Astro/Safari forum

  • steering knuckles that cut ball joint boots2)
  • door handles break off
  • 1998-1999 particularly hard hit by transmission valve body failures 3) “Less common problems are the failures of the transmission's fluid pressure (TFP) switch, failure of the transmission's “reaction sun shell” and failure of the transfer case shift motor.”
  • power locks fail: “grease them once a year with lithium spray in grease. The rear door lock may be fixed by drilling a hole through the piece of zinc to repair the piece that broke off.”4)
  • power windows fail - switch failure?
  • ABS controller failure
  • rough idle or misfires: “problems with the spark plugs, ignition systems and poor vacuum seals have been implicated in some cases”5) “Get a good [distributor] cap with brass contacts.”
  • idler/pitman arm failure
  • transmission output seal failures
  • intake manifold gasket leaking oil or coolant
  • 1984-early 1985 models may have oil pressure idiot light incorrectly wired to CHOKE indicator
  • fuel pump failure – earlier than normal fuel filter changes may help alleviate
  • P1870 This can be caused by wear of the bore for the TCC isolator and regulator valves in the valve body.
  • alternator failures

Chevy Express / Savanna

Transmissions are regarded as generally good, with lifespans like 120,000-180,000 miles on the 4-spd auto 4L80E and 130,000-200,000 miles for the 6-spd 6L90.6)

Learn more about these vehicles on the Express/Savanna subforum.

  • leaking intake manifold gaskets cause oil or coolant leaks around 100k miles.7)
  • fuel pump failure – earlier than normal fuel filter changes may help alleviate
  • stuck fuel injectors8)
  • transmission clutch regulating valve can lose pressure, throwing P0776, P0796, P2714 and P2723 codes.9)
  • worn valve seats may require head replacement
  • cracking rear door hinge
  • fuel level sensor failure (gas gauge sender)
  • paint issues

Chrysler Pacifica

  • the Pacifica has historically been slightly oversized in order to “package protect” (preserve space for) for AWD which finally came out in 2020.10)
  • 2004-2008 rust, especially in the engine cradle area11)
  • TIPM issues, as with the other FCA minivans since 2008.
  • approx 15k 2007 (?) models had faulty torque converters, causing shuddering while driving. Sometimes described as “like driving over rumble strips”.
  • hard shifting
  • some 2017 have engine vibration due to incorrectly-drilled balance shaft12)
  • 2017 hybrids may have defective inverter (recalled)
  • interior quality
  • paint issues
  • some fuel pumps shut off frequently while fueling the vehicle

Dodge B-series

Made from 1971 - 2003, and hardly changed in the interim. This can be a good thing, as known issues are stable over time. It can be a bad thing in that deficiencies are not addressed over time.

  • frame rust
  • rear track is slightly narrower than front track
  • extended body models can be unstable if overloaded behind rear axle
  • heater core issues

Dodge Caravan / Town & Country

Caravans may be available cheaper than T&C as they generally had fewer options (and less stuff to break).

Learn more about these vehicle on the Chrysler minivan forum.

  • 5th gen (2008+) electrical problems associated with the TIPM (power distribution) assembly. TIP fuel pump relay failures can be fixed with an external relay. HID installs can cause TIPM problems due to ballast interference. Rebuilt TIMP are available.
  • early 4-spd auto transmissions (41TE) had early internal clutch failure and limp modes caused by sensor faults.
  • use of non-spec transmission fluid can cause failure, with Dexron II being the worst offender.13)

Ford E-Series

  • early ignition coils/packs failure
  • ball joint failure
  • leaking cylinder head gasket
  • 1997-2008 2-valve Triton engines may experience the spark plug ejection issue14),15)
  • 2004-2011 3-val 5.4 Tritons with Variable Valve Timing can have timing chain, tensioner, or cam phaser issues – listen for noises at startup.16),17),18)
  • 2004-2007 3-valve 4.6L, 5.4L and 6.8L can experience spark plug breakage or head damage during removal.19) Changing at 50k miles instead of the stated 100k and using anti-seize may help prevent seizure.
  • 5.4 Tritons can experience oil pan gasket leaks. The part costs ~$20 but replacement runs about $1000, due to requirement to lift the engine.
  • 2005 – 2006 E-150 w/4R75E20) Transmission can experience slipping. Replace forward clutch drum and update ECU with program 06B06.
  • sticking solenoid regulator on 4R10021) Transmission (P0715, P0716 & P0717)
  • The International VT365 (rebadged as Ford 6.0 L PowerStroke) found in 2003-2010 model year Ford E-Series vans/chassis was problematic.22)
  • 1996-2001 2v Tritons may have a nylon intake manifold that can crack and leak.23)
  • 2011 - 2013 5.4L 2V and 6.8L 2V Engine – Excessive Engine Oil Consumption (valve seals)24)

Ford Transit

  • Giubo driveline component failure, addressed in a recall.
  • transmission filter cannot be accessed for normal service; requires removal of front subframe which may be difficult due to seized bolts. Normal service is done by a fluid exchange machine at the Ford dealer.
  • Ecoboost carbon fouling on intake valves
  • Ecoboost shuddering from plug fouling
  • speed sensor failure causes limp mode
  • water can drain on ECU plug; diverter installed at some point per Customer Satisfaction Program 15B39. Workaround using iced tea jug.
  • cabin leak near passenger footwell
  • transmission solenoid failure (SSM 45065) requires removal of transmission.
  • heater core failure - TSB 18-2172. Flushing with Prestone Cor-Guard and refilling (as in the TSB) may be good preventative maintenance.
  • leaking roof rack mount plugs25)
  • TSBs
    • 2015 Transit – Interior High Intensity LED Cargo Lamps May Emit A Low Glow When They Should Be Off – Built On Or Before 4/22/201526)

Ford Transit Connect

  • 2013 - 2015 coolant loss
  • 2010 - 2013 2.0 L with 4F27E auto
    • slipping and no reverse due to leaking reverse air bleed capsule27)
    • torque converter problem causing slipping between 3rd - 4th
    • hard shifting due to failed accumulator

Ford Windstar

Honda Odysssey

Achilles heel: transmissions.

Learn more about these vehicles on the Odyssey Club forum.

  • 1999-2001 4-speed B7XA autos could chew up bearings, clogging fluid pathways28) Warranty was extended.29)
  • 2002-2003 5-speed BYBA autos could experience 2nd gear failures due to lack of lubrication, oil jet added under recall.
  • 2002-(2005?) 5-speed BYBA autos 3rd gear clutch pack failures could cause “As the clutch friction material abraded, it scattered bits inside the transmission case, clogging fluid lines and causing erratic shifting. Drivers might suffer slipping, poor or no shifts, or sudden down-shifts from fifth gear to second gear.”30)
  • 2018 9-speed auto: “TSB 16-087 - Transmission End Cover Leaks (9-Speed A/T).”
  • 2018-2019 10-speed autos have a recall for sudden shifting into park.31)

Mercedes Sprinter

Autel MD802 code readers are often recommended for those that do their own maintenance.

In general, the (before 2010) T1N models are simpler and often preferred for field maintainability.

  • Body rust issues until 2017 (?) - Metallic colors may have received better clearcoat.
  • 2008+ diesel emissions control: the "fatal flaw"
  • fuel injector "black death"
  • T1N: glow plug seizure in cylinder head

Nissan NVx500

  • V8 + auto shifting issues (usually late shifting/slipping)
  • V8 #3 plug fouling from oil leak in valve guides or elsewhere - no clear info yet.
  • P0441, P0455 codes caused by gas evap sensor pulling out of the charcoal canister33)
  • P0448 code caused by dirt clogging evap valve/solenoid/canister, possibly due to vent location in wheelwell.

Possible workaround: blow out with air, reset code.34)

  • V8 can hunt/surge between 1000-1500rmp; fixed by ECU flash update.
  • V8 knock when starting that may or may not be problematic.
  • V6 plastic intake manifold can crack if hose clamp fitting is overtightened35)
  • water leaking in the front (sloped) roof section, due to windshield mounting, weld issues, or (in at least one case) condensation.36)
  • lowest MPG of all vans
  • inadventant pushing of the “Info” button can illuminate idiot lights.37)
  • white nylon gear shift lever spacer can fall out of steering column
  • 13.5” roof rib spacing means rib-cutting to install normal 14×14“ roof vents.

Nissan NV200

The NV200 is rated as the most reliable cargo van (any size).38)

Learn more about this vehicle on the NV Forum.

  • premature tire wear39)
  • wheels easily bent
  • 2014-2015 models somewhat higher rate of transmission problems
  • location and shape of the electric window switch40)
  • lower front bumper has no protection grill for radiator41)
  • airbag recall42)
  • ecoboost not available on LWB

RAM Promaster

Learn more about this vehicle on the Promaster forum or the Promaster article.

  • the odometer cannot record more than 1 million kilometers (~620,000 miles)47)
  • diesel version transmission disliked by many
  • steering wheel is bus-like and not tilt-adjustable
  • seating is high
  • 6th gear is very high for MPG purposes; the PM will downshift to 5th on minor grades
  • some fuel pumps shut off frequently while fueling the vehicle
  • if the transmission-to-frame ground is loose it can affect the ignition interlock48)

RAM Promaster City

  • recalls
    • ram promaster city vans manufactured september 26, 2014, to march 5, 2016. a low-voltage electrical harness connector by the front driver seat may be susceptible to water intrusion and corrosion.
    • 2.4L engines may experience oil consumption

Toyota Sienna

  • oil sludge buildup requiring engine rebuild or replace
  • V6 3.5L engine may have a faulty oil line causing sudden oil loss.49) LSC-90K
  • 3.5L 2007-2010 gen2 vans with the tow package may have a faulty oil cooler line. 50) TSB-0201-11, Warranty Enhancement Program ZE2.
  • broken weld in door51). Symptoms: failure to close or lock, noises.
  • 2004 - broken side door cable52)
  • VSC, Trac, and other dashboard lights may indicate misfire, leaking gas cap, emisssions, or steering rack53) issues.
  • On 1st Gen Siennas, the Integration Relay (“yellow box”) can fail, causing difficult to diagnose electrical issues.


  • DEF-equipped DEF issues, especially if idled excessively

most reliable

The most reliable van with lowest upfront cost, longest warranty, and lowest annual repair costs outside warranty appears to be the full-size Nissan NV or its minicargo sibling NV200.

Since only a tiny minority of 'dwellers own those vans we can deduce that absolute reliability is not the driving factor in our van-buying decision, no matter what we say.

lowest total cost

The cheapest vandwelling solution in terms of purchase price and yearly maintenance appears to be a used Dodge Caravan.54) They are cheap on the used market and even though they are not paradigms of reliability they do have low repair costs. The Town & Country variant is fancier so costs more and has more options to break.

Since only a tiny minority of 'dwellers own those vans we can deduce that absolute cost is not the driving factor in our van-buying decision, no matter what we say.

4spd auto that came with 4.2L, 4.6L, & 5.4L
4spd auto in heavy duty 1997–2004 models
“has the reputation as being the worst diesel engine ever put into a pickup truck”.
possibly related to dimmer switch
Part number 04861773AA
“grand” or otherwise
rv/van_issues.txt · Last modified: 2020/12/06 19:33 by frater_secessus